Jun 10

- The Essence of DNA Identity (Veterans Today, June 10, 2013):

Do you intrinsically possess individual privacy rights, based upon natural law authority, or are your civil liberties arbitrarily defined by the current whims of government?

How you answer, this question speaks loudly about your understanding of the nature of your very being. Those who deem that natural law is a myth or a superstition are poised for voluntary surrender of their vital identity. The cataloging of individual essence is aberrant.

Your deoxyribonucleic acid is the core element of personal uniqueness and human dignity. If your DNA is subject to government collection and storage, the right of personal privacy is destroyed.

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Mar 16

- DNA database in doubt after teenager spends three months behind bars for rape in city he has never even visited because gene samples were mixed up (Daily Mail, Mar 15, 2012):

  • 19-year-old arrested in Devon over Manchester attack
  • Greater Manchester police begins review of murder and rape convictions obtained using forensic firm
  • Victim, currently serving time for affray, demands compensation
  • His lawyer demands public inquiry. Scores of other cases could now be reopened

A DNA blunder led to a teenager spending three months behind bars after he was accused of rape in a city he had never even visited.

Adam Scott, from Truro, Cornwall, was charged with attacking a woman in a park in Manchester, after his DNA sample was mixed with that of the attacker’s that had been taken from the victim.

He had provided the swab in connection with an unrelated crime that was also being processed at a laboratory run by LGC Forensics.

The company, based in Teddington, south-west London, is one of three forensic firms in the UK used specifically for DNA crime-scene testing.

It handles tens of thousands of samples for police forces across the country – and this cross-contamination could now see many cases having to be reopened.

Mr Scott’s lawyer has called for a public inquiry.

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Mar 14

- New York State Set to Add All Convict DNA to Its Database (New York Times, Mar 13, 2012):

ALBANY — New York is poised to establish one of the most expansive DNA databases in the nation, requiring people convicted of everything from fare beating to first-degree murder to provide samples of their DNA to the state.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers were putting the finishing touches on a deal to establish a so-called all-crimes DNA database, a move that is supported by all of the state’s 62 district attorneys and 58 sheriffs, as well as 400 police chiefs. New York already collects DNA from convicted felons and some people convicted of misdemeanors, but prosecutors say collecting DNA from all people convicted of misdemeanors will help them identify suspects of more violent crimes, and, in some cases, exonerate people wrongly accused.

“Every single time we’ve expanded the DNA database, we have shown how effective it is in convicting people who commit crimes, and we’ve also shown that it can be used to exonerate the innocent,” said Richard M. Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission.

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Nov 13

Britain’s surveillance culture has been expanded out of all proportion to any threats we face – and it’s getting worse, says Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch and former chief of staff to David Cameron.


Britons are already the most-watched citizens in the democratic world because of an array of systems including CCTV Photo: PSL IMAGES

Even when Thatcher’s ministers were being pulled from the rubble of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, we never allowed threats to distort our way of life. Now, we let accusations of dog fouling and fiddling school catchment areas to justify unprecedented snooping. We face the prospect of improving technology allowing the state to monitor us in every moment of our lives.

DNA profiles of over a million innocent people are still on the national database, and despite all promises to the contrary such records are still being added.

Local councils authorise themselves to mount covert surveillance of residents under powers meant for serious crimes and terrorism – to catch people putting bins out at the wrong time, for dog fouling, breaking the smoking ban, littering, noise nuisance. It’s entirely out of proportion; the cure is worse than the disease. Innocent victims have no right to know that they were watched, so it’s not scaremongering, but simply stating the obvious, to say it could have happened to you.

Council-run CCTV cameras have trebled in the last ten years. We’re the only country that’s gone so far down this path: the Shetland Islands have more CCTV cameras than San Francisco’s Police Department. The capture and retention of the images of innocent people without their consent is now de rigueur. ‘Nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ we’re told – but the reverse should apply in a free society. If you have done nothing wrong, why should the state record your whereabouts and what you’re doing?

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Feb 24

State says blood specimens were sent for research that will help identify missing persons.

lawyer-jim-harrington
Lawyer Jim Harrington has sued over lack of consent in DNA policy and may sue over database.

An Austin lawyer threatened to pursue a new federal lawsuit Monday after learning that some newborn blood samples in Texas went to the U.S. military for potential use in a database for law enforcement purposes.

The Department of State Health Services never mentioned the database to Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, who settled a lawsuit in December with the state over the indefinite storage of newborn blood without parental consent, or to the American-Statesman, which first reported on the little-known blood storage practice last spring. Harrington said he thought another suit was likely unless the health department destroys the information obtained from the blood samples or obtains consent.

“This is the worst case of bad faith I have dealt with as a lawyer,” he said Monday. Continue reading »

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Feb 17

Lock up your kids and lock down your PC’s

internet-censorship

France yesterday put in its bid for an unlikely prize, becoming the first western country to make even Australia look liberal when it comes to state powers of internet censorship.

In the teeth of fierce opposition both inside and outside parliament, the National Assembly approved, by 312 votes to 214 against, a first reading of a bill on Internal Security – the quaintly titled “LOPPSI 2″.

LOPPSI – otherwise known as Loi d’Orientation et de Programmation pour la SÈcuritÈ IntÈrieure (pdf)- is a ragbag of measures designed to make France a safer place. Like similar UK legislation – most notably the various Criminal Justice acts brought in over the last decade – LOPPSI brings together a number of apparently unrelated proposals which would severely restrict individual rights in all walks of life.

Last week, for instance, the Assembly agreed to include within the new law a measure that would allow Prefects to sign off on a curfew for children aged under 13, out unaccompanied between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.

The bill also includes measures that would increase police spend on “security”, create additional penalties for counterfeiting and ID theft, increase CCTV surveillance, and widen access to the Police DNA database.

However, it is in the online area that some of the most radical proposals are to be found, with the criminalisation of online ID theft, provision for the police to tap online connections in the course of investigations, and most controversially of all, allowing the state to order ISPs to block (filter) specific internet URLs according to ministerial diktat.

It has also been suggested that the state should have the right to plant covert trojans to monitor individual PC usage.

Whilst the latter measures are put forward on the grounds of child protection, critics have been quick to point out that, in the absence of any judicial oversight mechanism, this is a power just waiting to be abused. Continue reading »

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Dec 03

Many parents ask why they are saving the samples

AUSTIN (KXAN) – When Andrea Beleno was expecting her first child, she never dreamed his blood would become the focus of a federal lawsuit.

Neither did the other families who are suing the State of Texas to protect the medical privacy of their children.

Each year, more than 400,000 babies are born in Texas. State law mandates that before newborns leave the hospital, his or her heel will be pricked and five drops of blood are collected.

Two weeks later, their pediatrician collects another five drops of blood. The blood cards are submitted to the Texas Department of State Health Services as part of the Newborn Screening program. One or two drops are used to screen for a list of serious medical conditions.

The parents are not objecting to the screening. They object to what the state is doing with the leftover blood samples.

Beginning in 2002, the State began saving the leftover specimens, unbeknownst to parents and without their consent.

“It made me really mad that nobody asked me if they could keep my sons DNA,” said Andrea Beleno.

Her son’s DNA was among millions of banked samples stored at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

“It makes me suspicious and I think there’s really no reason for the state to have a database of the blood of and the DNA of every single person who has been born here,” said Beleno. “There’s no legitimate reason for that.”

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Nov 25

Tories last night attacked reported Government plans to charge innocent people a £200 fee to apply to have their names removed from the national DNA database.

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Innocent: Police are arresting people in order to get their DNA details on the national database

Police are arresting innocent people in order to get their hands on as many DNA samples as possible, senior Government advisers revealed last night.

The Human Genetics Commission said the Big Brother tactic was creating a ‘spiral of suspicion’ among the public.

The panel – which contains some of Britain’s leading scientists and academics – said officers should no longer routinely take samples at the point of arresting a suspect.

They also called for all police – including support staff – to place their own DNA on the national database in a show of solidarity with a public being routinely placed under suspicion.

By law, officers are only allowed to make an arrest if they have ‘ reasonable suspicion’ that a person has committed a crime.

But the HGC, which has carried out a lengthy review of the merits of the database, said evidence had emerged of police arresting people purely so they could take their DNA.

Its chairman, Professor Jonathan Montgomery, said: ‘People are arrested in order to retain DNA information that might not have been arrested in other circumstances.’

The claim, which was backed by evidence from a senior police officer, delivers a significant blow to the Government’s defence of the database – which contains more than 5.6million samples.

Campaigners have long feared officers were carrying out mass sweeps of the population to load their samples on the database, and make future crime fighting easier.

The result is one million entirely innocent people having their genetic details logged by the state.

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Oct 13

Related information:

Study: DNA can be faked by criminals, crime scene can be engineered

Exchange “criminals” with “governments”.

Taser use to obtain DNA not unconstitutional: NIAGARA COURTS RULING

And now…


The FBI plans to migrate from its IAFIS fingerprint database to a new biometrics system that will include DNA records, 3-D facial imaging, palm prints and voice scans that blows away fingerprinting.

fbi
TAMPA – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is expanding beyond its traditional fingerprint-focused collection practices to develop a new biometrics system that will include DNA records, 3-D facial imaging, palm prints and voice scans, blended to create what’s known as “multi-modal biometrics.”

- How the Defense Department might institutionalize war-time biometrics

“The FBI today is announcing a rapid DNA initiative,” said Louis Grever, executive assistant director of the FBI’s science and technology branch, during his keynote presentation at the Biometric Consortium Conference in Tampa.

The FBI plans to begin migrating from its IAFIS database, established in the mid-1990s to hold its vast fingerprint data, to a next-generation system that’s expected to be in prototype early next year. This multi-modal NGI biometrics database system will hold DNA records and more.

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Aug 09

Chief constables across England and Wales have been told to ignore a landmark ruling by the European court of human rights and carry on adding the DNA profiles of tens of thousands of innocent people to a national DNA database.

Senior police officers have also been “strongly advised” that it is “vitally important” that they resist individual requests based on the Strasbourg ruling to remove DNA profiles from the national database in cases such as wrongful arrest, mistaken identity, or where no crime has been committed.

European human rights judges ruled last December in the S and Marper case that the blanket and indiscriminate retention of the DNA profiles and fingerprints of 850,000 people arrested but never convicted of any offence amounts to an unlawful breach of their rights.

Britain already has the largest police national DNA database in the world, with 5.8m profiles, including one in three of all young black males. Thousands more are being added each week.

So far the Home Office has responded to the judgment by proposing a controversial package to keep DNA profiles of the innocent, depending on the seriousness of the offence. The official consultation period ended today. for six to 12 years

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May 09

Jacqui Smith’s new plans erode principles of innocent until proven guilty to create a New Labour-style third way: innocentish

It is perhaps ironic that the home secretary should seem so hellbent on collecting the nation’s DNA while still reeling from the embarrassment of her husband‘s presumed attempts to spill his at the taxpayer’s expense. If it is irony then it is doubly so, as Smith is the minister charged with upholding the rule of law yet has such utter contempt for it and its principles. The EU court ruling stated very clearly that the DNA profiles and samples of the 850,000 innocent people currently on the database should be removed.

Smith’s response is to leave them on the DNA database for between six and 12 years. At best this is a childish kind of belligerent foot-dragging and at worst it is plain illegal. What is certain is that campaigners will challenge this, and once again Smith will be hauled into court.

The continued inclusion of innocent people‘s DNA on the database throws up several concerns. At a most basic level it flies in the face of our most natural notions of fairness. Why should some have their DNA profiles among the guilty and others not. The only reason provided so far is chance, a chance encounter with the police.

Secondly, Smith’s new regime leaves the innocent who have been cleared of charges of minor, non-violent crime on the database for six years, which erodes the principle of innocent until proven guilty and in classic New Labour fashion creates a third way, neither innocent or guilty but innocentish.

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Mar 23

“Britain is now the most invasive surveillance state and the worst at protecting privacy of any western democracy.”


  • Rowntree Trust cites DNA database and ID register
  • Whitehall told 11 systems out of 46 must be scrapped


A man has his fingerprint scanned on a new biometric check at Heathrow. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A quarter of all the largest public-sector database projects, including the ID cards register, are fundamentally flawed and clearly breach European data protection and rights laws, according to a report published today.

Claiming to be the most comprehensive map so far of Britain’s “database state”, the report says that 11 of the 46 biggest schemes, including the national DNA database and the Contactpoint index of all children in England, should be given a “red light” and immediately scrapped or redesigned.

The report, Database State (PDF) by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, says that more than half of Whitehall’s 46 databases and systems have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness, and could fall foul of a legal challenge.

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Mar 08

“It’s odd that this drive towards fingerprinting children coincides with the government’s keenness to expand the national DNA database – we already have one of the largest in the world – with more than four million people on file, including nearly 1.1 million children.”

“Odd too that VeriCool is reported to be part of Anteon, an American company that is responsible for the training of interrogators at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.”


Schools claim it cuts costs and time – but the civil liberties implications are vast
Comments

As voters express concern about surveillance technology, is it becoming second nature to the Facebook generation – used to publishing intimate details of their private lives on the worldwide web – who, in later life, may be less vociferous in their opposition to such schemes?

An increasing number of today’s schoolchildren are forgoing the humiliating daily name call of registration, and are instead having to “fingerswipe” in and out of class, or to give it its proper name: biometric registration. According to campaign group LeaveThemKidsAlone, schools have fingerprinted more than two million children this way, sometimes even without their parents’ consent. A statement on its website claims: “It’s part of an enormous softening-up exercise, targeting society’s most impressionable, so they’ll accept cradle-to-grave state snooping and control.”

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Mar 01

“There has been a tide of government actions which have put expediency over justice time and time again. The British people wear their liberty like an old comfy suit, they are careless about it, but the mood is changing. Last year 80 per cent of people were in favour of ID cards, now 80 per cent are against. There’s a point of reflection that we are reaching, the communications database which is planned to collect every private text and phone call and petrol station receipt will create uproar.” – David Davis


Writers, pop stars, lawyers and politicians from across the party spectrum yesterday issued a call to arms. They joined the largest ever campaign across Britain to warn of the erosion of freedoms and the emergence of surveillance techniques

Police outside Parliament
A police cordon outside the Houses of Parliament in 2006. Liberty campaigners warn of a growing police state. Photograph: Adam Butler/AP

The government and the courts are collaborating in slicing away freedoms and pushing Britain to the brink of becoming a “database” police state, a series of sold-out conferences in eight British cities heard yesterday.

In a day of speeches and discussions, academics, politicians, lawyers, writers, journalists and pop stars joined civil liberty campaigners yesterday to issue a call to arms for Britons to defend their democratic rights.

More than 1,500 people, paying £35 a ticket, attended the Convention on Modern Liberty in Bloomsbury, central London, which was linked by video to parallel events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Cambridge. They heard from more than 80 speakers, including author Philip Pullman; musicians Brian Eno and Feargal Sharkey; journalists Fatima Bhutto, Andrew Gilligan, Nick Cohen and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger; politicians Lord Bingham and Dominic Grieve; a former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald; and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.

In her speech Kennedy said she felt that fear was being used as a weapon to break down civil liberties. “There is a general feeling that in creating a climate of fear people have been writing a blank cheque to government. People feel the fear of terrorism is being used to take away a lot of rights.”

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Feb 27

DNA samples of innocent to be kept on file

Jacqui Smith
Home secretary Jacqui Smith: has not indicated whether DNA samples already obtained would be destroyed. Photo: Cathal McNaughton/PA

The government is planning to get around a European court ruling that condemned Britain’s retention of the DNA profiles of more than 800,000 innocent people by keeping the original samples used to create the database, the Guardian has learned.

A damning ruling last December criticised the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the UK’s current DNA database – which includes DNA from those never charged with an offence – and said the government had overstepped acceptable limits of storing data for crime detection.


Don’t miss:
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warns of surveillance culture (Times):
Richard Thomas told The Times that “creeping surveillance” in the public and private sectors had gone “too far, too fast” and risked undermining democracy.

- Spy chief: We risk a police state (Telegraph):
Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.


Last month the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said she would publish a white paper setting out “a more proportionate, fair and commonsense approach”, but she has not given any indication whether DNA samples already obtained would be destroyed. However, Home Office sources said the government, which was given three months to respond to the ruling, has “no plans” to destroy samples of DNA.

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Jan 16

Plans condemned as the greatest threat to civil rights for decades

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has voiced his concern about the erosion of civil liberties
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has voiced his concern about the erosion of civil liberties

Sweeping new powers allowing personal information about every citizen to be handed over to government agencies faced condemnation yesterday amid warnings that Britain is experiencing the greatest threats to civil rights for decades.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the pressure group Liberty, warned that the laws, published yesterday, were among a string of measures that amounted to a “terrifying” assault on traditional freedoms.

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Dec 16

Civil Rights Groups Assail Change


Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) advocates DNA collection at arrest or deportation. (2006 Photo By Melina Mara — The Washington Post)

Immigration and civil liberties groups condemned a new U.S. government policy to collect DNA samples from all noncitizens detained by authorities and all people arrested for federal crimes.

The new Justice Department rule, published Wednesday and effective Jan. 9, dramatically expands a federal law enforcement database of genetic identifiers, which is now limited to storing information about convicted criminals and arrestees from 13 states.

Congress authorized the expansion in 2005, citing the power of DNA as a tool in crime solving and prevention.

The FBI created its National DNA Index System in 1994 to store profiles of people convicted of serious violent crimes, such as rape and murder, but the system has been expanded repeatedly, first to include all convicted felons, then misdemeanants and state arrestees. The data bank contained more than 6.2 million samples as of August, and officials estimate that 61,000 cases have been solved or assisted using DNA.

The change could add as many as 1.2 million people a year to the national database, U.S. officials said. Supporters equate DNA collection to taking fingerprints or photographs at the time of booking.

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Dec 06
  • Retention of unconvicted citizens’ samples criticised
  • Home secretary promises report on how to comply


The judges said DNA profiles could be used to identify relationships which amounted to an interference with their right to respect for their private lives. Photograph: Science photo library

The fingerprints and DNA samples of more than 857,000 innocent citizens who have been arrested or charged but never convicted of a criminal offence now face deletion from the national DNA database after a landmark ruling by the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

In one of their most strongly worded judgments in recent years, the unanimous ruling from the 17 judges, including a British judge, Nicolas Bratza, condemned the “blanket and indiscriminate” nature of the powers given to the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to retain the DNA samples and fingerprints of suspects who have been released or cleared.

The judges were highly critical of the fact that the DNA samples could be retained without time limit and regardless of the seriousness of the offence, or the age of the suspect.

The court said there was a particular risk that innocent people would be stigmatised because they were being treated in the same way as convicted criminals. The judges added that the fact DNA profiles could be used to identify family relationships between individuals, meant its indefinite retention also amounted to an interference with their right to respect for their private lives under the human rights convention.

The case provoked an expression of disappointment from the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and the promise that a working party, including senior police officials, will report back to Strasbourg by next March on how the government will comply with the judgment.

“The government mounted a robust defence before the court and I strongly believe DNA and fingerprints play an invaluable role in fighting crime and bringing people to justice. The existing law will remain in place while we carefully consider the judgment.”

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Oct 19

MI5 and the police may be allowed to secretly collect genetic samples from items such as cigarette butts and teacups under new laws that could massively expand the national DNA database.

The powers would allow investigators to break in to suspects’ homes to collect DNA which could then be shared with foreign governments to check for links to crime and terrorism.

The new law, being discussed by Parliament, would mean the ‘stolen’ samples – thousands of which have already been taken by the security services – would be admissible in court and at a stroke hugely expand the Government’s controversial DNA database.


Concern: Minister Lord West wants data shared between governments

But human rights activists fear the new powers could lead to more innocent people having their DNA stored and, due to cross-contamination, being wrongly accused of crimes or terrorism.

The proposals, which are contained in the Counter-Terrorism Bill, were outlined last week by Security Minister Lord West in the wake of Labour’s unsuccessful attempt to introduce legislation to hold terror suspects for 42 days without charge.

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Sep 17

PETAH TIKVA, Israel (Reuters) – An Israeli city is using DNA analysis of dog droppings to reward and punish pet owners.

Under a six-month trial programme launched this week, the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is asking dog owners to take their animal to a municipal veterinarian, who then swabs its mouth and collects DNA.

The city will use the DNA database it is building to match faeces to a registered dog and identify its owner.

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